Thursday, March 29, 2012

Honey Ginger Carrots

My kids love to eat carrots. We usually just eat them raw and only have them as an "official" side dish on holidays when my grandmother prepares them. Christmas carrots must have a cup of sugar and butter in them; I tried to make a healthier version for my family. These carrots were perfect. The lemon juice gives a wonderful fresh taste.

  • 1 pound carrots, sliced
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 T honey
  • 1 pinch of ground ginger
  • 1 T lemon juice (I used the juice from a small lemon)

  1. Boil water. Add carrots. Cook about 5 minutes (you may cook longer but we like ours to be crunchy)
  2. In a skillet, melt butter with honey. Stir in ginger and lemon juice.
  3. Stir in carrots. Heat through.
Difficulty: Easy
Time:15 minutes
Source: I found this pinned from

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chicken Marsala

This is definitely one of my favorite meals and it is always a treat for my entire family when I make it, as I don't make it very often.  To make it quickly, which can happen, you really need to focus a bit more than my children typically allow. This recipe also requires that the chicken be pounded.  Usually, I unnecessarily feel that this is an inconvenience; today, I actually enjoyed pounding the heck out of the chicken.  Something about it was therapeutic.  And even if it took me five extra minutes to make it than one of my more typical recipes, I gained that time and more back when it came time to sit at the dinner table, for sure.  My kids, who are notoriously slow eaters, gobbled this up in record time.  My only regret: that I didn't double the recipe so we could have it again later in the week.

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound total)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (personally, I never use less than the whole container)
  • 2 Tablespoons sliced green onion (I have sprinkled some onion powder in with the mushrooms when I didn't have fresh green onions.  Not totally conventional, but delicious nonetheless.)
  • 3 Tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup dry Marsala wine (I have always used cooking wine, but a friend recently highly recommended buying the real deal; I am going to try it next time)
  1. Stir together marjoram, salt, flour, and pepper.
  2. Place chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to 1/8 - 1/4 inch thickness.  Lightly press chicken into flour mixture; shake off excess.
  3. In large skillet, cook mushrooms and green onion in 1 tablespoon of butter until tender; remove from skillet. 
  4. In the same skillet, cook chicken pieces in remaining margarine over medium high heat for 4 minutes, turning to brown evenly.
  5. Return mushrooms and green onion to skillet.  Carefully add broth and marsala.  Cook, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes or until mushroom mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally.
I usually serve this with mashed potatoes and a veggie on the side, but have also served with egg noodles or rice.

Difficulty: medium
Time: 25-30 minutes start to finish
Source: Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens cookbook

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mashed Potato Casserole

Mashed potatoes are a favorite comfort food of mine, but they are often a restaurant treat since all too often they come out of the box in my house and my parents' house. The first time I made mashed potatoes was when I hosted Easter in my home during the first year of marriage. It was an extremely stressful experience; I have avoided making them for the past 7 years until now. Recently, Joyce was weighing the benefits of buying a mixer, she asked me if I used mine to make mashed potatoes; I didn't until now. The beauty of this recipe is that you can prep it early in the morning or the night before a party or holiday and eliminate the stress.

  • 6-7 large cooking potatoes
  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) of sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg
  • 2 t parsley flakes
  • 1 t garlic salt
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • bacon (optional)
  • salt, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel, quarter, and boil potatoes for about 20 minutes (or until soft).
  3. Place potatoes in mixer. Beat until smooth.
  4. Add cream cheese, milk, sour cream, and spices. Mix on medium speed until creamy.
  5. Put potato mixture into a 9x11 sprayed baking dish. Top with shredded cheese (and cooked bacon/bacon bits if desired). Cover. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover, bake an additional 10 minutes.

Difficulty: Medium (I did have to peel and cut potatoes)
Time: 30 minutes prep time, 40 minutes baking time
Source: Gooseberry Patch

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Asian Pork Chops

A long time ago, at a previous place of employment, I had the privilege of eating lunch with some amazing people. Aside from great conversation, one of the best things to ever come from those lunches was this recipe. It is my absolute favorite way to prepare pork chops (and my family's favorite way to eat them), and I am so happy that it is now officially "grilling season" in our neck of the woods so that we can make them more often.  If you want to know more about hoisin sauce and other ways to use it in cooking, as well as a bit more about me and my undying love for the ingredient, head on over to our friend’s blog, The Unhip Chick, where I have a guest post today. (The Chick likes to try new products and services and gives them a “chickalicious” rating based on her experiences. While you are there, check out her other great posts about food and kitchen gadgets, too!)

  • 5 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 boneless pork chops
  1. Combine first five ingredients and marinate pork chops for one hour at room temperature or 24 hours in the fridge.
  2. Grill until juices run clear (about 4-5 minutes each side, but this depends on thickness of chops, so watching for juices is the best way to time)

Note: My kids love this recipe, and they love it even more when I serve it with seaweed sheets.  We put a bit of rice, a bit of meat, and some veggies in the seaweed, roll or fold it up, and pop it in our mouths.  My kids think of it as a special treat and get so excited when they hear that we are having this meal!

Difficulty: Very easy
Time: 5 minutes prep, 1-24 hours marinating, ~10 minutes grilling
Source: a former co-worker

Friday, March 16, 2012

Amazing Oven-Roasted Broccoli

This recipe is hands-down my favorite broccoli recipe.  It is just so darn good!! I really like broccoli when cooked with other ingredients, like in casseroles, but prior to this recipe I was always kind of so-so about it as a side dish.  This recipe changed my broccoli world forever.  We recently had it as a side with steak for dinner, and I honestly wanted more broccoli, not more steak, when it was all over.

  • bunch of broccoli
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 lemon (or lemon juice if that is what you have)
  • parmesan cheese (use something better than the Great Value Parmesan if you have it or can, but it is still delicious if you are going budget like I am)
  1. Preheat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Rinse and dry broccoli, cut into spears.  Drizzle with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and toss.  Add garlic; toss again.  Add salt and pepper; toss again.  Spread on foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes until edges of broccoli begin to brown. Remove and place in bowl.
  4. Drizzle with additional 1T (or less) of olive oil.  Add the juice of one lemon (or a squirt of lemon juice) and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Toss to coat.  
Some tips: This is a recipe that doesn't have exact measurements.  You will use different amounts of ingredients depending on how much broccoli you have and what your tastes are.  Don't overdo it on the olive oil, but add enough to lightly coat the majority of the broccoli before baking.  After it comes out of the oven, use much less than you did in the step prior to baking.  If you are trying to reduce calories, use a minimal amount of Parmesan cheese; the kids might like a little extra.

Difficulty: easy
Time: 5-10 minutes prep, 20-25 minutes baking
Source: this is a modified version of a Barefoot Contessa recipe

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Black-bottomed Strawberry Pie

Happy Pi Day--3.14!
Spring means strawberries. All our local stores have them on sale. Growing up, my family loved this time of year because my grandfather would start baking strawberry pies. He owned a bakery; now, the bakery is closed. So if I want a strawberry pie, I have to bake it! While I do have the occasional slice at Eat N Park (that Merry Berry Month of May song is a good draw for me), I refuse to buy strawberry pies at the store because I think they have far too much glaze and not enough strawberries. After tasting this pie, my husband exclaimed, "This is the best pie in the world! Don't try any other recipes."

Note: I find this is a good pie to work on while doing a few loads of laundry...each time you get a load folded, go to the next step.

  • 1 boxed pie crust (or make your own)
  • 2/3 cup hot fudge topping, warm
  • 1 package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 pint strawberries, quartered
  • 1/2 cup strawberry pie glaze (I found this in Wal-mart's produce section)
  • 1/2 cup cool whip
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake pie shell in 9 inch pie pan 9-11 minutes. Cool completely (about 15 minutes).
  2. Spread hot fudge topping in bottom of pie. Place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
  3. Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar. Spread over chocolate layer.
  4. Mix strawberries and pie glaze. Spoon onto cream cheese layer. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  5. Add cool whip to serve.
Difficulty: Easy
Time: Each step is quick, but there is a lot of lag time in between; start to finish 3 hours
Source: Pillsbury

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Oreo Bombs

While I was shopping this morning, I saw a huge display of Oreo cookies celebrating their 100th birthday. This seemed as good an excuse as any to buy a bag of cookies. Oreos don't last long in our house. I figured I speed up the process by making these no-bake Oreo treats using only 3 ingredients.

  • 1 package of Oreo cookies
  • 4-6 ounces of softened cream cheese
  • white chocolate (I used 1 bar plus some leftover white chocolate chips)
  1. Crush Oreos using a food processor, mini-chopper, or your kids with a freezer bag and rolling pin. (I used a mini-chopper doing 6 cookies at a time).
  2. Set aside Oreo crumbs; reserve a bit for topping.
  3. Mix crumbs with softened cream cheese. I found between 4-6 ounces worked well to allow me roll the ball easily.
  4. Roll into 1 inch balls. Set on cookie tray. Put in freezer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave per directions.
  6. Dip cookies. Set on cookie tray covered in wax paper. Used reserved crumbs to garnish top of cookie.
  7. Place tray in freezer to allow cookie to set.
Difficulty: Easy
Time: Start to finish about 40 minutes
Source: My daughter's teacher

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Crispy Oven-Fried Fish

Okay, I will admit it - I have been known to occasionally throw a box of Van De Camp's or Gordon's frozen fish into the grocery cart to have on hand in a pinch.  But whenever I see fresh fish on sale, I grab it and make this yummy and healthy recipe, which actually takes less time to get on the table than the boxed fish.  I first made it years ago for my husband and I (before kids) in an instance when I really had no idea what to do with the fresh tilapia I had just bought.  I pulled out my reliable Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, found this recipe, and was enticed by the "fast" and "low fat" classifications they had given it.  I have been happily making it ever since.

  • 1lb fresh or frozen skinless cod, orange roughy, or catfish fillets, about 1/2 inch thick (I have also made with tilapia)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dried dillweed
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp margarine or butter, melted
  1. Thaw fish, if frozen.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels.  Cut into 4 serving size pieces.  Place milk in shallow dish.  Place flour in another shallow dish.  In a third shallow dish combine breadcrumbs, cheese, dillweed, and pepper.  Toss with melted margarine.
  2. Dip each piece of fish in the milk, then in the flour.  Dip again in the milk, then in the crumb mixture to coat all sides.  Place fish on a greased baking sheet.  Bake, uncovered, for 6 to 9 minutes or till fish flakes easily with a fork.

Difficulty: easy 
Time: 10-15 minutes prep, 6-9 minutes baking
Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Simple Asparagus

Kids are notorious for being picky eaters and veggies seem to be one of their biggest eating obstacles.  I try to make a wide variety of foods because I have found that if I always make the same kind of foods, they only want the same kinds of foods.  Asparagus is not a common "kid food," but it can be!  I only began making asparagus a few years ago, and at first had no idea how to even prep it to be cooked.  Since then, I have tried making it many different ways, from grilling to baking and with different seasonings; some I have liked better than others, some have been easier than others.  There is nothing fancy about this recipe - it is as simple as it gets - but it is perfect for a quick side dish that the whole family can enjoy.  To make it a little more appealing for the kids, I let them eat the spears with their fingers, like french fries.

  • Asparagus
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon Pepper seasoning
  1. Prepare the asparagus by washing the stalks and snapping off the ends.  (Gently bend the stalk, holding it at both ends.  It will naturally snap in the appropriate place.  My five-year-old likes to help with this.)
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Add the asparagus; immediately turn the heat to medium and simmer for 2-2 1/2 minutes (not longer!).
  3. Drain and put the asparagus in a bowl or back into the pot.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and lemon pepper to taste.

Difficulty: Super easy
Time: The time that it takes to boil water + less than 5 minutes.
Source: I researched many ways to prep and cook the asparagus in cookbooks and online and found this to be one of the easiest and most foolproof; then I tried different combinations of seasonings and settled on this.  Perfectly simple.

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